When it’s time to hire a photographer, you might start your search by asking your friends, or hopping on Google. These are good places to do research, but you might find that your friends’ photographer isn’t necessarily the best fit for your family. And while Google is convenient, you might quickly find yourself overwhelmed with options… many of which you didn’t know existed!

Here are 12 questions to ask yourself before choosing a family photographer:

Oscar sits at the breakfast table with his parents in their kitchen in Columbus Ohio

1. Do they specialize in the type of session I need?

Just because a photographer makes beautiful photographs, doesn’t mean they can repeat that result in every situation. For instance, a corporate headshot photographer isn’t going to have the same knowledge as a family photographer who is an expert working with hyper kids (and vice versa).

  • Look for someone whose portfolio mostly shows the thing you would hire them for (family, maternity, newborn, pets, headshots, etc.).
  • For families: are they large extended families with grandparents and aunts and uncles, or just the immediate household? What are they doing together?
  • For newborns: is the baby posed alone, or with family? Are they styled with boutique outfits and props in a studio? Are they at home?

Some photographers will offer a range of services spanning a few genres, but there should be a general theme tying everything together. For instance, a newborn photographer may also offer maternity and 1-year cake smash sessions. Many family photographers (including myself) can document your family’s entire journey from newborn and beyond. Longevity is definitely something to consider if you want to build a relationship with one photographer and have your family documented consistently.

2. Does the style match what I’m looking for?

Style can mean how a photographer edits their work, but also how they direct the shoot itself. Consider your personality and how you like interacting with others on a daily basis. A photographer who matches your energy will make the session flow smoothly, giving you photos that truly feel like you.

  • Are the images vibrant and colorful, light and airy, or dark and moody? Do they offer color photography, black and white, or both/
  • Are families posed more formally, with everyone facing the camera and smiling (traditional)?
  • Are the families captured more photojournalistically, caught in the middle of an action (documentary/lifestyle)?

A photographer might use a mash-up of these styles, but there will always be an overarching theme that weaves throughout their portfolio. As a [mostly] documentary photographer, I try to one camera-aware shot of everyone smiling, but 98% of the session is unposed.

Olive the dog peeks over Joe and Isla's shoulders at their cups of hot chocolate
Avery rides on her dads shoulders and poses for a photo with her mom hugging her from behind
a close-up of a little girl's feet in a hammock

3. Where will the session happen?

Is this photographer local to you? If not, do they travel? What’s the travel fee (and is it in your budget)? Do they have an indoor studio where they meet clients? Are they shooting outdoors, or in clients’ homes? Lifestyle/documentary photographers will often use a mix of outdoor and in-home settings, based on the season and where their clients feel most comfortable. Which brings me to my next point…

4. Is this someone we can feel comfortable with?

Planning for family photos can feel a bit stressful at first. Think of how much better you’ll feel with someone who can guide you through a great experience, and minimize the stress at every step. This question may be harder to answer until you actually speak to the photographer, but you can always read between the lines:

  • Do the people in the photos LOOK comfortable and happy?
  • Does the photographer offer a free consultation or a walk-through of their process before you’re committed to book?
  • Will the photographer help plan the location and logistics?
  • Does the photographer offer outfit planning or tips to get your kids excited before the session?

These are perhaps some of the most important questions to ask, but somehow always fall off the radar until it’s too late.

5. What products are offered (and do I want products?)

Up until ~20 years ago, printed photos were just part of the deal when you booked family photos. There was no social media or need for digitals! Now that we have everything at our fingertips on our phone, we have to be more intentional about ensuring we get something tangible from our photo sessions so all that time and energy doesn’t go to waste. Printing your photos is one of the best investments you can make, and one of the most important things to consider when choosing a photographer.

  • What do you want as the final result of your session? Do you want finished artwork like albums/frames? Digital files to print on your own? Or a combination of both?
  • Do you need assistance with designing a gallery wall, or do you prefer to do it yourself?
  • If you only want digital files, what do you intend to do with them and how will you keep them safe?
A blue photo album that says "and we kept going" on the cover

6. When and where will I see my final images?

Each business will have its own sales process and different levels of service in presenting your final product to you.

  • Will ordering happen in-person where the photographer walks you through every image? The initial appointment may take some time, but once you’re done, you’re done.
  • Will the photographer send you an online gallery to view at home?
  • What’s the estimated turnaround time for the final images? Is that enough time to get your prints and products back by a particular birthday/holiday?

As for me, I send my clients an online gallery within 3-4 weeks of the session, where they get to view their images for the first time in a slideshow set to music. This makes for a better viewing experience and it’s something my families rave about! I also have a convenient in-gallery print store, stocked with the very best albums, frames, and prints so my clients are in total control over what they purchase.

A mock-up photo of a computer screen with a slideshow in the middle of the screen

7. How flexible is my budget… really?

Is photography something you are willing to splurge on if you absolutely LOVE the final result? Do you have a specific cap on how much you’re willing to spend?

  • If you have a strict spending limit, booking an all-inclusive photographer may end up costing less since you’re getting digital files to print on your own later (ideally). The downside is you may not actually get around to printing those photos.
  • If you’re more flexible with your budget, you may prefer a photographer who gives you the option to purchase digital images and products once you’ve had a chance to see the images from your session. You may end up spending more overall, but it’s a more intentional purchase because you’re only paying for what you want. And, you’ll get more personalized service along the way! 
  • I offer a unique hybrid approach where payments are split into 3 installments, with the 3rd installment due upon gallery delivery. All sessions include all the digital files, but my clients can also ADD a print collection after they’ve seen their images, ensuring they get exactly what they want (and not having to make those decisions or commitments in advance).

8. What do the reviews say?

A legitimate, trustworthy business will ALWAYS have a place for clients to leave public reviews. The best place to start is Google, but photographers can also have reviews on Facebook, or Yelp. You should also check the photographer’s website, but a public review source will be the most up-to-date.

Other things to consider

9. Is the photographer responsive to your inquiry and questions?

10. Has pricing been laid out in a way that’s CLEAR and easy to understand? Do you know what you will be paying before you sign contracts? If you’ve had the pricing conversation with your photographer and you’re still not getting the whole story, that’s a red flag.

11. Does the photographer have a fair, comprehensive contract for both of you to sign? What’s their rescheduling policy if it rains or someone gets sick? What are they promising to deliver? What if something goes wrong?

12. Finally, trust your gut. If you’re not hitting it off, find someone else you connect with more naturally. It’ll help you feel more relaxed and confident going into session day, which makes a better experience and better photos!

A family plays electric guitar together in the living room
A family standing in front of an abstract painted wall in Columbus Ohio
Cora and Naomi laugh on the floor of their living room in Columbus Ohio

Hi there!

I’m Daisy, and you’re very welcome here.

I’m a documentary Columbus Ohio family photographer offering stress-free and fun portrait experiences. I hope you enjoyed How to choose a family photographer, and if you’d like to chat about your own family photos, smash that button below. Can’t wait to hear what wild and wonderful things you’re dreaming up!

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